Monday, September 27, 2021

Tidy hacking: a concept for hospitality

Tidy hacking is the idea that you can quickly make a space appear tidy. In the ideal case, tidy hacking is equivalent to tidying up efficiently. However, usually you take shortcuts that make the space appear more organized at first glance but that ultimately cause more hidden disorganization. Tidy hacking is about hiding the true state of your home's cleanliness from your guests. This can sometimes feel uncomfortable or even dishonest, but an alternative view is that you're being respectful by efficiently making the space welcoming to your guests. As we start hosting after the long break imposed by the pandemic, tidy hacking may come in useful.

Suppose a friend is coming over and you only have 10 minutes notice. You'll be frantically trying to clean up to make your home appear tidy and welcoming. Of course, you cannot clean up your whole home properly in just 10 minutes (because let's face it, most of us don't have magazine picture-perfect houses). How do you prioritize which tasks to do before your friend arrives and which tasks to leave undone? Should you clear the clutter off of the couch or polish the silverware? Obviously, you should clear the clutter off of the couch. But usually it's not so clear. 

Here's our priority list for tidy hacking:

  • Hide clutter in spaces that won't be seen by your guests, like closets, bedrooms or drawers.
  • Do a quick vacuum of the floors. We find vacuuming to a have a good visual return on a small time investment.
  • Put dishes off the bench and into the sink (this makes the kitchen appear more clear).
  • Close doors to messy rooms.
  • Wipe down the dining room table.
  • Check the bathroom for obvious messes, focus on the sink and toilet. Hide the shower with the curtain. You can't be sure you can keep the guests out of your bathroom!

Tidy hacking isn't always the right approach. For example, if you clean up your bedroom by putting all your papers and toys under the bed, then you've solved the problem in the short term, but you haven't effectively increased the usability of your space for yourself. More generally, tidy hacking only works for a little while, if you only tidy hack, then eventually the mess will catch up. Sometimes deep cleaning and organizing are necessary.

Hopefully, you can keep your house in a state of generally good organization and cleanliness. If that's the case (or if you've recently been feature in a home living magazine!), then tidy hacking may not be necessary or appealing since you're able to welcome guests into a genuinely tidy house. On the other hand, our lives are sometimes in a season where extra energy to clean up regularly is not available -- but guests may still come at short notice. For example, if you have recently welcomed a newborn baby into your family, then cleaning your house to the same standard that you have previous been accustomed to may no longer be feasible.

The goal is to be welcoming and hospitable in your home. If tidy hacking helps you be hospitable by honoring your guests with a more presentable home given the limits of your time, then tidy hacking may be for you.

This post was jointly authored with my wife.